How can my husband help me when I have anxiety attacks during niddah?
16 February, 2023
I’m presently experiencing a bad depressive episode, alongside an anxiety disorder that manifests occasionally in anxiety/panic attacks. Mostly when I’m having an attack, having someone hold me close and breathe with me and comfort me gets me through it eventually. When I am niddah, my husband will just stand there and feel frustrated that he can’t touch me or really be of help, and I get more anxious because I feel so alone.
Having mental illnesses during niddah is difficult and makes the whole situation worse.
Is there room for leniency in the harchakot in such a circumstance?
Thank you for reaching out to us.
We appreciate the sensitive nature of this question, and understand that being in niddah exacerbates the difficulty of managing your depression, anxiety, and associated attacks.
It is not simple to be lenient with harchakot, even in the case of mental illness. In some extreme situations (e.g., when someone is suicidal), there can be room for non-sexual physical contact between spouses through a cloth or garment (i.e., not skin to skin).
For when the situation is not extreme, it would be helpful to arrange with a friend, neighbor, or family member other than your husband to be on call as much as possible during niddah to be able to hold you during your attacks.
We also wonder if your husband could find a way to breathe with you and comfort you during an attack, even if he can’t touch you. Internet research on breathing exercises, meditation exercises, mindfulness, and calming techniques and visualizations could all be helpful here in training him to help you effectively. Asking you certain types of questions could also help ground you during an attack. Perhaps he could join you to discuss some of these possibilities with your therapist.
We hope this helps somewhat. With more information, we might be able to give you more targeted advice and more support. Please don’t hesitate to follow up here or, if you’d like to speak with a yoetzet halacha, at our telephone hotline (details here).
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